Hunting the Goldeneye Duck

Sometimes called “whistlers,” these hearty sea ducks are known to be fast in flight making them a challenging game bird.  When diving and turning at just the right angle, their wings make a high-pitched whistling sound earning them the nickname. It also makes them easily identifiable and more apparent to nearby hunters.  None-the-less, it is the yellow-hued iris of the bird that has given them their popular name, Goldeneye Duck, and intense-looking visage.

The male drake’s entire head and neck will be either a deep blue/purple or green color.  The only exception is the white patch around the eye extending to the base of the bill.  When not seen in direct sunlight, this will look almost entirely black. The rest of this medium-sized bird is starkly contrasted between the black back and nearly all white underbelly.  Females will have dark brown heads with a grayish colored coat covering the rest of the body. Both genders will have dark black bills and brightly colored yellow/orange feet.

A common mistake, even among expert waterfowlers, is to confuse the Goldeneye family with Buffleheads.  The two are close cousins and share many physical traits but are distinctly different.  One tell sign is the timing of migration with Goldeneyes leaving much later in the season.

Goldeneye Duck Hunting

Whether it’s breeding season or taking a respite from a long-haul migration, you will find the Goldeneye in large forested lakes or the north end bays of the Great Salt Lake and Cutler Reservoir.  Invest in a good pair or waders, preferably with triple lining for durability and neoprene boots for the hour spent in waist-deep marshlands.    

These areas, along with river inlets and estuaries, will often serve as staging areas for the long flights south.  Large flocks in the late fall will arrive late October to early November so have decoys, and plenty of them, set up about 30-50 yards out.

Sea ducks like the Goldeneye are some of the toughest waterfowl out there.  When the bird reaches adulthood the feathers are fat a thick. Making them dense enough to withstand the extreme cold.  The bird’s sinew is naturally thick on the Goldeneye and is well-developed after a number of long-haul migrations.  When hunting, expect even well-hit birds to require a second shot.

Guns that Work Best for Goldeneye Duck Hunting in Utah

Most of the high-end shotguns on the market have reduced recoil.  Try the ones that you are most comfortable with. This will keep you on target after the first shot.  Benelli SBE III auto-loaders are the gold-standard here and have a large following for a reason.  The later versions of the gun has been lightened and has a large bolt which makes it easier when attempting to reload in tough conditions.  It can load everything from the 2 3/4 inch to 3/1/2 inch shells for larger fowl.  Fitted for modified chokes you’ll be able to have a much tighter shot and hit your target from 40 yards out.